Why you should hire an architect?
Over the years I have often been challenged by people who seem very impressed with all the display homes they visit on their free weekends. I have always maintained that architects are the only professionals who are qualified enough to deliver a truly customised home. The recent GFC however has made our cost conscious society even more careful. Design is something that I believe an architect will always deliver beyond a non-architect. I understand that there are many people who don’t care about how they look, what they eat, happy to be just another sheep, etc, and for those people design and quality means little. A display home could be the best way to go for those people who just don’t care. But for the rest of us we want to express ourselves honestly and don’t want to look the same as everyone else. We want to live in houses that are customised to our needs and only an architect can provide that. But putting all that aside are architects still able to offer value for money, by comparison to a design and construct company?
Architects have unfortunately gained a reputation in recent years for being expensive, overly fussy, and being responsible for projects that run over time and over budget. Nothing could be further than the truth and much of this propaganda stems from the multitude of display homes and developers that seemingly offer dream homes with a very small price tag and a lot of convenience.
Very few things in our modern age are free and design is certainly not one of them. So when someone tells you they can offer you a house design that’s for free or for very little (because it’s built into the package), you can be sure that you are paying for it somewhere. “Built in costs” or “upgrades” are often just a friendly term for “costs in disguise”.
Display homes present ready-made dreams, so that you don’t need to think about design. Some of the designs are not bad but are they really perfect for you. Ask for a few changes and the extra variations add up very quickly. The fine print is designed to trap you into a situation where variations cost more than they should. Unless you want exactly what you see in a display home you have to know that the fine print is not accommodating when it comes to variations. You then have to also make sure you have the same flat, regular block with a similar orientation to the street and to the sun. Even the slightest slope will drive the costs upwards, or some companies may simply not be able to do it.
Then there is the issue of quality. Those display homes you see are surely built with the best craftsmen possible because they have to impress. But will those same craftsmen build your home? That is highly unlikely given the very high turnover of builders and tradesmen used with design and construct companies. In fact you are likely to have the very cheapest and worst people working on your home. The cheaper the builder the more profit they make.
Builders often tell people to save costs by going directly to them with your ideas. By partnering up with a draftsperson they often manage to persuade people that they can create architecturally designed houses from your magazine clippings. That would be like putting on a DVD of ballroom dancing and asking someone to copy it after they’ve seen it. The results would be almost comedic. A builder with a draftsperson cannot replace an architects sensibilities and design capabilities. Time and time again I have had clients come to me after having unsuccessfully travelled the path to creating their dream homes without an architect only to come back wishing they had gone with an architect in the first place. In the end their design fees costed more than they should have because of the wasted expense and time with their first attempt. We are fortunate to live in a Country where you really do get what you pay for. So if something is cheap, it’s going to be cheap! When it comes to situations where there is council involvement with town planning, or knowledge in building regulations it can be more than a matter of poor design, but just a matter of can you even get permits? It takes an average of 10 years for someone to register as an architect and there’s good reason for it. Buildings are far from simple so unless you buy something already done, you need to be very careful. You need an architect!
Then there are the larger building companies who claim to have architects working for them and as a result offer a customised service. How customised is it really? One or two goes and then take it or leave it? Furthermore an architect working under a builder is under the builder’s control. So that means that their design is limited to the builders abilities and what they want to spend in order to maximise their profit. So there is nothing great about a builder with an architect working under their build. You need to engage the architect directly and have them look out for your best interests.
An architect is impartial to the builder’s costs. If you hire an architect they are working for you and have your best interests at heart. They are not interested in blowing your budget as some may be fooled into believing. That would be counterproductive since a blown budget is likely to result in a redesign or perhaps an abandonment of the project altogether and none of those scenarios benefit the architect. Architects are working with you to get the most out of you budget and not to blow the budget.